Agnes changed everything

The 45th anniversary today of the flood of 1972 caused by Tropical Storm Agnes brings scores of memories. I was 22 years old and working in the newspaper field then. A highlight for me was when President Richard Nixon visited the flood damage a week or so later and I was following his motorcade on Wyoming Avenue in Forty Fort when he spotted a bride and groom coming out of a church and ordered his driver to stop.
“Holy (you know what), he’s going to kiss the bride,” I said aloud to myself while grabbing my Leica, jumping out of my VW bug and sprinting toward the church. I got photos of Nixon with the bride that ran on the front page the next day and in several post-flood publications thereafter.
But the flood memory that came to mind Friday was not from that summer of ’72 but from several years later and actually had me laughing … at myself.
Swoyersville native Lou Michaels had an outstanding football career at the University of Kentucky where he was an All American and Southwest Conference Player of the Year in 1957 and then in the National Football League where for more than 14 years he played with the Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Colts and finally the Green Bay Packers.
Lou, a tough defensive lineman, was perhaps best known for his placekicking. He was one of the last of a breed, linemen who also kicked field goals and extra points with a “straight on” style. Near the end of Michael’s career, placekickers became specialists, using a sweeping, soccer style of kicking. Often they were from countries other than the U.S. where kids grew up kicking soccer balls.
One such kicker, Czeslaw “Chester” Marcol of Poland, arrived in the Packers locker room in 1972 and Lou Michaels retired not long after.
In retirement, Lou took over and ran a popular tavern on Main Street, Pittston. I was writing sports then and arranged to interview Lou for a story. He had a real tough-guy image but was more than cordial to me. That could have changed in an instant, however, except that for once in my life I kept my mouth shut.
Looking back on his retirement from the NFL, Lou, a proud man, said, “I’d still be playing today if it weren’t for … ”
He paused for a moment and I came this close to finishing his sentence with, “I know, Chester Marcol.”
” … a lady named Agnes,” Lou said, and I tried desperately to hide a sigh of relief at realizing that I could easily have walked out of that bar with a bloody nose.
Lou explained he was needed back here to help clean up the homestead in Swoyersville.
“Yes,” I commiserated, “Agnes changed a lot of lives.”
I was in Lou Michaels’ company every now and then as the years went by and always enjoyed seeing him. He was nothing but gracious.
Lou died in January of 2016. He was 80 years old.

Ed Ackerman